Australian Government - Department of Health - Office of Hearing Services
Hearing Services Program

FAQs on the NDIS interface and transition

Frequently asked questions on the interface and transition.

1.   General Information

What is the linkage between the Australian Government Hearing Services Program and the NDIS?

  • As part of the introduction of the NDIS in 2013, the Australian Government agreed to transition existing Commonwealth programmes that provide support to people with disability to the NDIS.  One of these programmes is the Australian Government Hearing Services Program (the program), which will be transitioned in part to the NDIS by 2019-20.
  • Moving eligible clients of the program to the NDIS will mean that they have far more choice and control over the services they need.
  • Feedback from NDIS participants is critical to ensuring future arrangements for hearing services continue to deliver on positive client outcomes. NDIS outcome domains include choice and control, daily activities, relationships, home, health and wellbeing, lifelong learning, work, and social, community & civic participation. The NDIS website has further information on how to provide feedback on the NDIS.

What is the program?

  • The program currently provides services to a range of people with mild to profound hearing loss, including children and young adults, some Indigenous Australians and aged and disability pensioners.
  • The program is managed by the Office of Hearing Services in the Department of Health.  The program is delivered through Australian Hearing and through other accredited private sector providers.
  • The program has two components: Community Service Obligations (CSO), and the Voucher Scheme.
  • CSO clients receive services delivered exclusively by Australian Hearing under a Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of Health. The program funds delivery of hearing services to clients who require specialised hearing services, including:
    • children and young adults up to age 26,
    • eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and
    • voucher eligible adults with complex hearing needs.
  • The voucher scheme provides Government funding to accredited service providers to deliver the following services to eligible clients (mainly pensioners and veterans): hearing assessments; hearing devices; fitting services; and ongoing support.

What is the NDIS?

  • The NDIS is a new way for people to get disability support that takes an individualised and life-long approach through community linkages and individualised plans. This means rather than providing support based only on the number of services or type of hearing devices available under the program, the NDIS will provide funding so people can get the reasonable and necessary support they need, based on their individual hearing needs, goals and aspirations. These supports may include linkages to existing services and supports within the participant's community, and/or reasonable and necessary funded supports.
  • The NDIS is not means tested.
  • To become an NDIS participant a person must be under 65 years of age and have a permanent disability that substantially reduces their ability to participate effectively in activities, or perform tasks or actions without some type of support or assistance.
  • Early intervention requirements apply to children under 7 years of age.
  • The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) is an independent statutory agency whose role is to implement the NDIS, which will support a better life for hundreds of thousands of Australians with a significant and permanent disability and also support their families and carers.

2.   Timeframes

When is the NDIS being rolled-out?

  • The NDIS is currently being trialled in seven jurisdictions: New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. Trials will continue through 2015-16. 
  • From 2016-17 the NDIS will start to transition to full-scheme roll-out in six jurisdictions: New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland and the Northern Territory.  The Australian Capital Territory will reach full-scheme at the end of its trial.  Transition to the full-scheme is yet to be agreed in Western Australia.

When will program clients transition to the NDIS?

  • Nationally, program clients who are eligible for the NDIS will transition to the NDIS
    by 2019-20.
  • Eligible program clients in NDIS trial sites are able to apply for the NDIS, noting that some trial sites are phasing in participants based on their age. Full-scheme roll out will occur from 2016-17 to 2018-19.
  • Eligible program clients are encouraged to apply for the NDIS, once they are able to access the NDIS, to ensure that there is no gap in services and so that their experience can inform transition planning.
  • The transition of Program clients to the NDIS will need to be considered as part of broader NDIS transition planning, taking into account legislative changes to reflect the transition of clients by 2019-20.

3.   Accessing the NDIS

How do I become an NDIS participant?

  • The NDIS has been designed to support people with a significant and permanent disability who need assistance with every day activities.
  • People can become participants in the NDIS (as the trial sites roll out) if they meet either the disability or early intervention requirements.
  • Current clients of the program can test their eligibility for the NDIS with the NDIA if the NDIS has rolled out in their location and they meet relevant age criteria.  Hearing services providers may be able to assist clients to transition to the NDIS.
  • People who are not currently clients of the program can independently contact the NDIA to test their eligibility for the NDIS.

How does the NDIA decide who can access the NDIS?

  • A person with disability or a child with developmental delay, who wishes to participate in the NDIS, must first be assessed against the access requirements.The NDIA makes decisions about eligibility consistent with the National Disability Act. Once an individual has been accepted into the scheme, they will need to prepare for their meeting with an NDIA planner.
  • Further guidance on eligibility relating to hearing loss and deafness is being developed by the NDIA and is expected to be published in the first quarter of 2016.

Which program clients will transition to the NDIS?

  • Hearing Services clients will transition to the NDIS who
    • are aged under 65 years of age,
    • have a permanent hearing loss, and
    • have a significant loss in functional capacity to communicate and/or socially interact without support (such as hearing devices) or assistance.
  • To date, program clients who have become NDIS participants are those who have a permanent hearing loss and have been fitted or implanted with a hearing device. The NDIA is developing evidence based guidelines to support consistency in decisions about accessing the NDIS and reasonable and necessary services for people with hearing loss.

Are there any special considerations for children currently receiving CSO services?

  • The majority of younger children currently receiving CSO services from Australian Hearing are expected to transition to the NDIS.
  • The NDIS Early intervention guidelines are currently being reviewed. These guidelines will help to ensure that children with hearing loss can access the NDIS early intervention services even with mild hearing loss.
  • The NDIA has established an Early Childhood Intervention (hearing loss) expert reference group to inform the development of evidence based guidelines for hearing loss, early intervention and an appropriate hearing services model. It is expected that this group will report to the NDIA later in 2015.

Will voucher clients who are not eligible for the NDIS because they are 65 years or older still be able to access hearing services?

  • The majority of people who receive a voucher from the program are over 65 years of age and are therefore unlikely to be eligible for the NDIS. Voucher clients who are not eligible for the NDIS will continue to receive services through the program in the usual way, now and in the future.

What will happen to CSO clients who do not qualify for the NDIS?

  • CSO clients who are ineligible for the NDIS will not lose access to funded hearing services. A review of the current program arrangements will ensure that existing CSO clients continue to receive services in the future.

Are there any groups of CSO clients that may not qualify for the NDIS?

  • CSO clients with complex communication needs who are 65 years and over are not eligible for the NDIS.  Arrangements to ensure that these older CSO clients continue to receive appropriate services under the program will be considered as part of transition planning. NDIS participants who turn 65 will have the option to remain NDIS participants.
  • Children and young adults who have transient hearing loss due to chronic ear infections may not qualify for the NDIS. However, the importance of monitoring this group of children to identify deterioration in hearing and middle ear function and prevent permanent hearing loss is acknowledged. Transition planning will consider how best to continue this activity, given the respective roles and responsibilities of state/territory health systems, the program and the NDIS.

What happens if I become an NDIS participant before 2019-20?

  • NDIS participants will continue to have access to the program at their current level of support for as long as they remain eligible for hearing supports.
  • If you have been issued a voucher, you can continue to access services through your usual hearing service provider. Your provider will claim funding from the program in the usual way.
  • If you are a CSO client, you can continue to access services through Australian Hearing.
  • As an NDIS participant, you may be able to access other NDIS supports if they are considered reasonable and necessary, including additional supports offered by registered NDIS hearing service providers.

What happens if I am a CSO or voucher client less than 65 years of age but don't live in a NDIS trial site?

  • You will continue to receive hearing services through the program for as long as you are eligible for that program.
  • If you are unsure whether you live in an NDIS trial site contact the NDIA on 1800 800 110.
  • By 2019-20 the NDIS will be a national scheme.

Can CSO clients turning 26 years of age continue to receive services from Australian Hearing?

  • As part of the interim arrangements if you are living in an NDIS trial site, become an NDIS participant, and have hearing loss supports in your individual plan, your NDIA planner can refer you to the voucher scheme to receive hearing services.
  • You can choose whether to continue to receive the services available under the voucher from Australian Hearing or another contracted service provider.

4.   Providing services

What happens if I am a service provider under the program?

  • Providers under the voucher scheme of the program can lodge claims for payments for NDIS participants (who are also voucher holders) through the current claiming process. Providers can also register with the NDIS to provide additional supports to participants in the trial sites.
  • In NDIS sites, Australian Hearing will continue to be funded under the program to deliver support to CSO clients, including to CSO clients who are also NDIS participants.
  • Outside of NDIS trial sites, current funding and delivery arrangements will continue unchanged.

How can hearing service providers support the NDIS application process?

  • The NDIA expects that most people applying to enter the scheme will have had previous diagnostic hearing assessments that confirm their level of permanent hearing loss and evidence that the person's functional capacity is substantially reduced without assistance.
  • Ensure previous results are well documented and reports are available to support the access and planning processes.

What hearing services are available to an NDIS participant who meets the definition of a complex client?

  • NDIS participants in the Voucher Program have access to the same range of hearing services and options as any other Voucher clients. This means that an NDIS participant who is identified as a complex client can choose to access CSO services through Australian Hearing.

5.   Transition Planning

What happens to the program during the NDIS trial period and while the NDIS rolls out nationally?

  • The program will continue to fund services during the NDIS trials and transition to full national coverage.  A transition plan will be developed to support eligible NDIS participants and applicable funding to transfer to the NDIS by 2019-20. Stakeholders will have an opportunity to provide input to the transition plan.

Will stakeholders be consulted on the transition plan?

  • The transition plan is being developed in consultation with key stakeholder groups, including hearing loss advocacy and disability groups and professional hearing practitioner bodies, in 2015.
  • A series of transition planning workshops were held around Australia from July to October 2015 to inform the transition plan.

What happens when the NDIS reaches full national roll out?

  • By 2019-20, when the NDIS is fully rolled out, a significant portion of existing CSO clients will have transferred to the NDIS at which time clients will have a choice of service provider.  Government funding for people aged 0 to 65 years who require support to manage their hearing loss and meet the thresholds for NDIS participation will be completely managed by the NDIS and the market will become fully contestable. This means that CSO clients will be able to choose to receive support for their hearing loss through a range of registered service providers, including Australian Hearing.
  • Clients who currently receive services from Australian Hearing who transfer to the NDIS will be able to choose whether to continue to receive those services from Australian Hearing.
  • Once the NDIS is fully implemented, eligible participants will benefit from greater choice and control over the services they receive, including their choice of service provider and potential access to new technology.
  • Services providers will receive funding for NDIS participants either directly from clients or the NDIA.

How will the NDIA ensure the quality of services provided to CSO clients?

  • We will be consulting with stakeholders, including the hearing loss and disability advocacy groups, to prepare a transition plan. The transition plan will consider how best to prepare the hearing services sector in a way which protects the current standards of high quality hearing services. 
  • The Commonwealth, state and territory governments are developing an NDIS National Quality and Safeguards Framework which includes standards of clinical care and provision of technology.
  • The Office of Hearing Services has commenced initial consultation on a potential Service Delivery Framework for Hearing Services that could apply more broadly to the hearing services sector.

How will the NDIA ensure that there is a continued focus on services and client outcomes?

  • Work is currently underway to develop an outcomes framework for measuring participant and family outcomes. The development of this outcomes framework considers how outcomes can be measured at the scheme level as well as the individual level.
  • Once finalised, this framework will include eight participant domains which focus on client outcomes “choice and control, daily activities, relationships, home, health and wellbeing, lifelong learning, work, and social, community & civic participation".

6.   Funding

What assurance is there that sufficient funding will be available under the NDIS to provide support to people with hearing loss?

  • The NDIS will essentially be demand driven - there is no capped funding allocation for an individual client.

Will funding of the National Acoustic Laboratories be affected by the transition?

  • The NDIS will not affect the National Acoustic Laboratories.
  • Funding for the National Acoustic Laboratories will not transfer to the NDIS.

7.   Access to supports/services

What is the role of the NDIS planner?

  • NDIS planners work closely with participants and their families to develop plans reflecting the participant's goals and aspirations.  Participants meet with their NDIS planner to discuss and determine the informal, community and mainstream services and any reasonable and necessary supports the participant needs to achieve their goals.
  • NDIS planners work with participants and their families to understand how disability impacts on daily living, assess support needs as necessary, and identify when the individual would benefit from early intervention.
  • NDIS planners generally have relevant qualifications, or experience, in human services, allied health or the disability sector. While they do not usually have hearing specific qualifications, they are able to seek specialist expertise where they believe that this is necessary to assist in the planning process.

How will NDIS planners decide which hearing related services and supports are "reasonable and necessary"?

  • The planning process is focused on the participant identifying their goals and aspirations. The role of the planner is to discuss these with the participant and identify current and future supports that will make progress towards these goals. While individual plans are generally active for a 12 month period, a participant can seek a review of their plan at any time.
  • For participants with hearing needs, this approach means that support provided is not only based on a set number of services or type of hearing devices available, but rather that funding is provided for the participant to access services and devices that are determined as "reasonable and necessary" for their individual circumstances. This can include supporting linkages to existing services, supports and devices already available under the Voucher Scheme or the Community Services Obligations component of the Australian Government Hearing Services Program. The Planner will consider whether suggested supports or services represent value for money, good practice and may also seek expert advice.

How can service providers assist with this process?

Will NDIS participants be able to get cochlear speech processor upgrades?

  • NDIS participants with cochlear implants will have access to speech processor upgrades where reasonable and necessary as identified in the participant's support plan. The Planner is able to access expert advice, if required to make this assessment.

Who can deliver hearing services to an NDIS participant?

  • NDIS participants with hearing loss identified as part of their funded package will be referred to the Hearing Services Program and will use a hearing services provider contracted under that program to receive services. 
  • Where an NDIS plan includes hearing-related technology outside the scope of the Hearing Services Program, this technology may be sourced from a NDIS registered provider, or, if the participant is self-managing that part of their plan, a provider of the participant's choice.

How will the NDIA ensure that clients in rural and remote areas have access to hearing services?

  • The NDIA will monitor market performance nationally, including in rural/remote areas. Close surveillance of possible market failure and service gaps will help ensure risks to service delivery are addressed.
  • When developed, the NDIS National Quality and Safeguarding Framework will apply to all providers, irrespective of whether the provider is providing services in metropolitan or rural/remote areas.

How will early access to supports for newborn children with hearing loss be protected, also noting Australia's international reputation for very low loss to follow-up rates following newborn screening?

  • The early months for newborns diagnosed with hearing loss can be critical for the whole family and it is recognised that the existing referral pathways work well in ensuring that there is a minimal delay between the time of diagnosis and the delivery of hearing services.
  • It is important that the NDIS does not act as a barrier to this pathway and the NDIA will be consulting with stakeholders on how this can best be achieved. Client experiences in trial sites will also inform implementation of early intervention models for the NDIS.

8.   Further information

  • It is early in the transition process and further details are being developed. This fact sheet will be updated at key stages in the consultation process.

FAQ OHS and NDIS 17 June 2015 (PDF 129 KB)

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